Every week I get pitched and come across several country acts. It’s my job as a reviewer to look all over for the best country and Americana acts to feature right here on Country Perspective. I especially enjoy finding unknown and undiscovered acts that no one is talking about. Many times I come across and get pitched music that simply isn’t good. I have to wade my way through a lot of crap (some of it’s not even country) and it can get tiring. But then you find that one-act who perks your ears right up and you find yourself nodding your head in agreement. It’s like wandering through a desert and finding that cool, refreshing oasis. That oasis is the duo of The Whiskey Charmers. Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, the duo is made up of Carrie Shepard (vocals) and Lawrence Daversa (lead guitar). They describe the music they make as “Songs with haunting melodies that tell stories of the open road, whiskey, and chasing a cure for incurable heartache.” And it’s the damn truth, as exemplified in their self-titled debut album.
The Whiskey Charmers kick the album off with “Elevator,” a song about a vague love story. Right away you get a taste of the hazy and smoky instrumentation that plays throughout the album. I thought the lyrics could have been clearer, but the theme gets across well. The next song, “Vampire,” is about a woman who is seduced by man who she believes is a vampire. She refers to him as a vampire because he has evil intentions in mind. While she knows he is a vampire and she should avoid him, she doesn’t care and spends the night with him anyway. The lyrics do a great job creating the imagery in the listener’s head and setting the scene for them. The guitar solo in the bridge by Daversa really gives the song a punch.
Carrie Shepard’s voice really starts to shine on “Straight & Narrow.” The song is about a woman who has been a “sinner” and is looking for help to stay on the “straight and narrow” from a man she calls a “saint.” It’s a bluesy love song that once again features great instrumentation. “Neon Motel Room” tells the story of a woman on the run from police, even though she isn’t guilty. She invites a friend to find her in a motel room she’s hiding out in and explains she only has 27 hours left of freedom. Shepard’s voice tells the emotion of the story perfectly and Daversa’s bluesy guitar play just continues to knock my socks off. It reminds me a lot of the music you hear out of New Orleans, with the amount of haziness and blues. The shortest song on the album is “C Blues.” In fact there are only 11 lines and the only instrumentation is just an acoustic guitar. Yet I find it to be one of the best, as this song has no filler and just cuts right to the heart of the song. It’s a heartbreak song that is easy to connect with and great call by the duo to keep it short and simple. Sometimes less is more and this is certainly the case here.
While “C Blues” is short and straightforward, “Parlor Lights” is complicated and mysterious. The lyrics for this song are fascinating, as the theme of the song is mystifying and dark. It’s the type of song where your mind can wander and leave you thinking many things after hearing it. All I know is that it draws me in, along with the just downright perfect instrumentation and production. Shepard reminds me a lot of Lindi Ortega in this song, as this sounds like something right out of a Ortega album. “Can’t Leave” is about a woman who is set to leave her controlling man and has her bags packed and ready to walk out the door. But she just can’t do it. As she says, she has the “can’t leave my baby blues.” He’s got a hold of her heart and she knows it. I wouldn’t say it’s a song about domestic abuse, but rather the second thoughts that go through everyone’s head as they end a relationship.
The penultimate song of the album, “Sidewinder,” takes on a desperado/western feel. The song begins slowly and methodically before picking up around the 1:30 mark into a mid-tempo pace. The song tells the tale of a sidewinder who pretends to be something he’s not, concealing his true evil intentions. The chorus lines of this song are the most brilliant lines of the album and perfectly describe this sidewinder:
When you shed your skin
See the shape you’re in
Your mistakes everyone will see
And you hiss and shake like a rattle snake
Not the little lamb you pretend to be
This is hands-down my favorite song on the album, as the lyrics, vocals and instrumentation perfectly work together.
The album concludes with “Waltz,” which is about a woman whose love is always waltzing across her mind. By the way the rhythm of the song is waltzing too, so this song couldn’t have a better name. This song definitely has more of a traditional country arrangement, as the pedal steel guitar and acoustic guitar drive the instrumentation of the song. Shepard’s voice is once again beautifully appropriate. It’s a nice little number to close out the album.
For the second time this year, we’ve got a fantastic album from an alt-country act out of Detroit (Whitey Morgan was the other). I don’t think The Whiskey Charmers could produce a much better debut album than this. Carrie Shepard is a very talented vocalist who could sing pretty much whatever she wants, while Lawrence Daversa dazzles me with his guitar play. It’s makes for a perfect combination. These two were made to make music with each other. Their sound is a cross of Americana and alt-country. To my ears it’s like Lindi Ortega meets The Allman Brothers. Not to mention the songwriting on this album is very stout, as Shepard wrote each song on this album and both of them wrote “C Blues.” The only complaint I have with this album is I would have liked to have heard a couple of fast songs, as the album stays in the mid to low tempo throughout. Other than that, I highly enjoy this album and definitely recommend checking it out. The Whiskey Charmers are the real deal and a duo you need to keep an eye on.